The first time Holly Josephs went to Brazil (summer 2015) as part of the MIT International Science & Technology Initiatives (MISTI) MIT-Brazil Program she didn't speak Portuguese. She developed an amazing connection with the country, became proficient na última flor do Lácio and did her thesis about one of her projects with the Vidigal community in Rio. Read below her Note from the Field about her experience with NETES, at the Federal University of São Paulo.
“I just found out about a fair for celebrating and sharing ideas about solidarity economy this weekend. Do you want to go?” my advisor at the Federal University of Sao Paulo asked me.
Two day later, I ended up on a plane with one other student from NETES, our social technology and solidarity economy research group, from Sao Paulo to Porto Alegre, a city in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil. We then took a 4-hour bus ride to Santa Maria where we stayed with a few university students. Southern Brazil was much colder than Sao Paulo and the city felt kind of familiar despite not having been there before.
We spent the next few days in talks about alternative local currencies, gender and race issues in Brazil, and the value of engaging university students in solidarity economy projects. As an urban planning student at MIT, I have been in many similar conversations, lectures, and workshops that have been in the American context or without geographic context. It was sobering to hear some of the same values and ideas being applied and organized in a completely different part of the world. It made me appreciate the power of these ideas that are so simple but so natural and rooted in kindness. I also realized the power of the internet which spreads these ideas at lightning speeds. At night, we spent time with our hosts playing and singing Brazilian and American songs and watching American movies with Portuguese dubbing.
Back in Sao Jose dos Campos in Sao Paulo, we began to work on the plans for a mobile museum to show the benefits of social technology and solidarity economy methods. These ideas are rooted in building communal wealth through sharing available skills, time, and resources. I spent most of my time designing a video game to practice personal economic interactions using a local alternative currency. The game allows the player to spend as he/she normally would for a week in the national currency and then repeat the purchases in a local currency to show the difference in money flows in the local, national, and international economy just from this one person’s choices.
I also continued my involvement in creating an online social network for the non-profit organizations in Sao Jose dos Campos. We planned to build a categorized, searchable, interactive map of the different organizations in the city to enable people in need to find specific services and for the different organizations to find each other and increase the potential for collaboration. Participating in this project has helped me organize my thoughts about how to increase the connectedness of social services in Boston or New York. I now have a model to follow to create a similar tool for a similar problem that all social workers complain about in American cities. And it will probably be easier to build in English :) "